Not even three short weeks after arriving in Grenå, my time in Jylland was up. My last few days were bittersweet: on one hand, I was finally going to København after months of planning and anticipation. On the other, the time I’d spent learning Danish, going on adventures, and making lifelong friends with the 50 other international students in Grenå was up. We ended with a bang — our final exams, a series of conversations with our classmates and teachers, finished by noon on Friday, and we had the rest of the day to ourselves before our final dinner and graduation ceremony (read: we starting partying after lunch). The only caveat was that we had to be packed and ready to leave the hotel at 9:00 the next morning.
I’ll miss you, Grenå!
I had planned to pack quickly after lunch and then join the party, but I got dragged into some shenanigans and did not end up packing before dinner. This did not discourage me from enjoying dinner and the party after, however. Henrik brought his band, and they performed both Danish and American classics for us (ranging from Jeg Er Så Glad For Min Cykel to Kim Larsen’s Joanna to Eye of the Tiger… twice). We partied long into the night; so long, in fact, that when I was still awake at 7:00 in the morning, I decided I had just enough time to watch the sunrise on the beach before I had to frantically shoving my things into a bag and get on the bus.
I did manage to find my way onto the bus (I even showered and ate breakfast!) for the 6 hour drive across Denmark. I’m sure it was a beautiful drive, but I was only awake long enough to settle my pillow between my head and the window. When I was shaken awake that afternoon, we were already at DTU in Lyngby.
Because there were 50 of us that needed to check in, it took a couple hours to get the key to my place. I only live half of a kilometer tops from the accommodation office, but with all my bags (how did I manage to fly here with so much stuff?) and the huge bag of linens I picked up from the office, it was quite a trek. Luckily, four other girls from the language course live in the same complex (Kampsax Kollegiet), so we made the journey with all our things together.
The first thing I did when I got into my room, after dumping my bags on the floor, was put my sheets on my bed and fall back asleep. Unfortunately, that took an embarrassingly long time because I hadn’t realized fitted sheets aren’t really a thing in Denmark (although I’ve heard tales that some of my friends have found some since), so I spent awhile looking for them in my linen pack… and then figuring out how to best tuck a flat sheet into my mattress. However, I must admit that my bed is probably one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept on, so I can sacrifice my fitted sheets for that.
The next afternoon, I finished unpacking my things. My room is fairly standard: it’s 3m x 4m plus a small hallway and (my own, yay!) bathroom. I have a bed, desk and chair, drawers, shelves, nightstand, desk and floor lamps that come standard with the room. I also managed to acquire a small couch (just long enough that I can sleep on it) for free that someone was trying to get rid of. It’s a bit sparse because I had to leave most of my furnishings at home, but I brought a lot of pictures to put up in my room, and I have been filling it with souvenirs from my travels, so it doesn’t feel too empty.
I had just cleaned my room, so I took the opportunity to take a decent picture or two.
After mostly unpacking, I found the other Grenå girls living in Kampsax, and we figured out groceries together. This consisted of finding a grocery store and trying to interpret the Danish labels by staring at them for a very long time. The first part was easy — there’s a Døgn Netto [Døgn literally means “open until midnight] at the other end of my kollegium that puts the C-Store to shame: things aren’t ridiculously, only marginally, overpriced; it’s actually open when it should be; and it has a large selection of goods, including all kinds of alcohol. Because we didn’t have a dictionary or internet to look things up with, the second part was not as simple — we ended up being fruit and vegetables and things like “mælk” that didn’t need translation.
Walking back to my room laden with food, I unexpectedly ran into someone I knew — actually, four someones I knew. The other Techers had arrived! We had ourselves a proper reunion celebration in which Michael tried to pick me up and knocked me in the jaw with his skull (that really hurt for the next couple days) before agreeing to meet again for dinner.
When I arrived for dinner, the others were already pretty much done cooking. I supervised as they finished, but I contributed by helping to eat all the food they had cooked; my conscience doesn’t let any food go to waste. After dinner, we opened a bottle of wine we had bought simple because we could — but it was cheap and tasted terrible, so instead of drinking it, we sat and exchanged stories about our summer and respective journeys to Denmark.
Soon, the jet-lagged Techers headed off to bed, and I returned to my room to finish getting settled into my home for the next four months.
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!